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Interactive Process is a Must for Employees Too

A refusal to discuss alternatives to his opioid use doomed an employee’s case under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Robert Sloan worked as a production manager for Repacorp, Inc. His job description required that he work with heavy machinery sometimes. Unbeknownst to his employer, Mr. Sloan regularly took morphine and Vicodin to cope with neck and back pain from his degenerative disc disease and arthritis. He did not have a doctor’s prescription for this medication so he obtained them from friends and family. Company policy required Mr. Sloan to disclose his use of these medications. A co-worker, whom Mr. Sloan had asked for Vicodin, reported the drug use to the company. Mr. Sloan was required to undergo a drug test and he tested positive for opioids. Repacorp placed Mr. Sloan on leave and asked that he work with his doctor to find an alternative treatment to the opioid use. Mr. Sloan refused to stop taking morphine and the company fired him.

Mr. Sloan lost his case for disability discrimination and retaliation on summary judgment. The federal trial court agreed with Repacorp that Mr. Sloan had failed to engage in the interactive process required. His refusal to explore alternatives to opioids with a doctor prevented the company from investigating the extent of his disability and the options available. The court held that an employer must have the “ability to confirm or disprove the employee’s statement[s]” regarding disability and medical treatment.